The Engine expands, responding to a rapid growth of ‘Tough Tech’

New location will support growing innovation ecosystem; serve as hub for the region 

The Engine announced today that it will create an additional 200,000 square feet of shared office, fabrication, and lab space in Cambridge to further foster “Tough Tech” — transformative technology that takes the long view, solving the world’s important challenges through the convergence of breakthrough science, engineering, and leadership. 

The Engine, built by MIT, invests in early-stage Tough Tech companies. These companies have long been underserved by the traditional investment ecosystem, leaving many breakthrough ideas stuck in the lab. A new model of venture capital firm, The Engine has provided dozens of forward-looking entrepreneurs with critical access to capital, industry know-how, and specialized equipment through its 28,000-square-foot location at 501 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, Cambridge.

The expansion, in collaboration with MIT, will extend and amplify the progress of the thriving innovation ecosystem in Cambridge and the greater Boston region. Central to the effort will be the renovation of the existing building at 750 Main Street to serve as a new hub for Tough Tech growth, with the capacity to accommodate approximately 100 companies and 800 entrepreneurs. The initiative will accelerate the development of next-generation technology by providing the vital infrastructure and resources necessary to accommodate fast-growing startups throughout the region.

This new hub will provide a place for companies to put their ideas into action — helping them build transformative technologies as efficiently, economically, and effectively as possible. It will have a natural proximity to academic institutions; access to talent; flexible and affordable lab and fabrication facilities; and a network that will foster relationships for market readiness. It aims to connect the diverse Tough Tech ecosystem — entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, leaders in academia and business, investors, and policymakers. The space will be specifically designed for companies at the convergence of technology disciplines across engineering and physical sciences, where access to diverse space and tools are essential for success. This expansion demonstrates MIT’s ongoing commitment to investing in and anchoring the evolving innovation ecosystem in and around Kendall Square.

The Engine launched its portfolio in 2017 with investments in seven Tough Tech companies. It has since invested in 12 additional Tough Tech founding teams, bringing its current portfolio to 19 companies. Together, those companies have raised approximately $285M in capital and employ more than 200 people.  

“We have a rare opportunity to help cultivate the next generation of leaders tackling the world’s most urgent, challenging problems,” said Katie Rae, CEO and Managing Partner of The Engine. “We also have the chance to forge a foundational infrastructure that can potentially change the geography of innovation. A thriving hub can propel the Boston region into the future as a magnet for world-changing companies in Tough Tech.”

Since its founding in 2016, The Engine has pioneered a new framework for investing in and supporting Tough Tech startups working on transformative technologies — ranging from commercial fusion power and ultra-efficient semiconductors to next-generation cell therapies and new manufacturing methods for metals, among others. This framework clears a path to commercialization for companies by providing capital, infrastructure (labs, equipment, office space, and more), and a support network. In October 2018, hundreds of members of The Engine’s network of companies and supporters joined forces in the Boston area at the first annual Tough Tech Summit

“It’s thrilling to witness the revolutionary work coming out of The Engine,” said Israel Ruiz, executive vice president and treasurer at MIT. “The model appears to be working just as we had hoped: The direct access to key infrastructure, enabling investment, and support services is helping game-changing innovators to accelerate their work in order to more rapidly address consequential and challenging pursuits. The new expanded space will allow The Engine, and its companies, to significantly increase its local and global impact.”

The design for the 750 Main Street building renovation is slated to be finalized in 2019, with construction scheduled to begin later this year. The Engine’s new space will be complemented by active ground floor uses that will contribute to a more animated streetscape. 

Once situated in its expanded location, The Engine will continue to invest in areas such as advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, energy, food and agriculture, space, semiconductors, the internet of things, quantum computing, biotech, AI, robotics, and the intersection of new technologies.

MIT continues to support the development of innovation in and around Cambridge through its Kendall Square Initiative, which will create a vibrant multi-use district with new buildings, open space, and gathering spaces, and will be home to innovative companies, retail, and restaurants. This Tough Tech hub will be a new center for The Engine, and a focal point of the innovation ecosystem inspired and cultivated by MIT. 

For more information about The Engine, please see its first report for the period 2016 -2018.

Download more photos here.

The Engine Expansion - Exterior

The Engine Expansion

The ground floor of the building has an event and gathering space to convene and activate the Tough Tech ecosystem. Visualization by Gensler.

The Engine Expansion

The building will be a combination of chemistry, biology, fabrication and office space. The lab spaces are distributed throughout the building. Visualization by Gensler.